Those Brad Pitt Photos Aren’t Just Meme-Worthy, They’re Kind Of Radical

Photographer Ryan McGinley is known for his electric lo-fi images of ecstatic youth, often revolving around naked 20-somethings galavanting through the wilderness ― lighting sparklers, jumping into waterfalls, and just generally looking young and wild and free. 

His most recent series, however, features a very different subject: “LA dad on a juice cleanse” Brad Pitt, who is 53 years old and rebuilding his life following a public, ugly divorce from Angelina Jolie.

The spread appears in GQ Style’s Summer issue, along with an interview by Michael Paterniti about Pitt’s life since his split from Jolie in September. The photographs are set in three national parks: the Floridian swamps of the Everglades, the crystalline dunes at White Sands and the crepuscular caves of Carlsbad Caverns, the latter of which are both in New Mexico. 

Since the photos appeared online this morning, the internet has banded together to revel in the strange yet undeniably magnetic images, which feature one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men rolling around like a sad baby deer in a seemingly endless carpet of sand. Many were quick to comment on the resemblance between the pics and Terrence Malick’s films ― especially “The Tree of Life.”

But there is something additionally compelling about the series, something we rarely see in the traditional “celebrity spread.”

Overall, Pitt’s interview with Paterniti feels genuine, self-aware and open. He discusses the experience of having his family “ripped apart,” his dependence on alcohol and his shortcomings as a father. Although he rejected the term midlife crisis, Pitt is clearly going through a major life transition, one suffused with both pain and possibility.

McGinley’s photos similarly reflect the complexity of this moment. From a certain angle, the artist captures Pitt as aged, gaunt and weary, his tumbling body appearing like a folkloric hermit who, after wandering too long, has finally collapsed. From another angle, however, Pitt appears almost adolescent ― his frame lanky and awkward, his tattooed body hunting for meaning or any roadsigns he can find. The images present Pitt as changing and imperfect, aging yet with much to learn. 

When it comes to celebrity photo spreads, most are sexy, glamorous and aggressively unreal ― aiming to cultivate envy and desire. Starlets dressed in fantastical gowns lounge impossibly in barnyards, bathtubs and grungy dive bars; makeup artists, hair dressers, designers, photographers and editors all conspire to turn humans into icons, stripping them of their interiority and complexity.

Such spreads also tend to feature young women photographed by men. Of course, publications like GQ tend to focus on male stars, but depict everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Adam Driver with the male equivalent qualities of charm, ruggedness and looking cool in a blazer. McGinley and Pitt flip that script a bit.

McGinley is queer, though he has said in interviews he’s not sure how much his sexual orientation translates into his work. While speaking with queer artist Catherine Opie, McGinley said that his older brother, who died of AIDS when the artist was 17, played a larger role, instilling within McGinley a contagious zeal for life that he believes makes his photographs hum.

I think that, in a way, my work is a response to that,” he said, “like about really embracing life and going wild and creating photographs in which there’s so much energy and so much life being lived. For me it’s an escape. Like when I’m looking through the viewfinder, I’m in another place.” 

Many of McGinley’s shoots take place during road trips, for which a bunch of friends will hit the pavement along with a trampoline, smoke machine, disco ball and other visually galvanizing tools, which can turn a gorgeous sunset into a hallucinatory epiphany. He took Pitt on a similar journey, traveling to three National Parks over eight days in March. 

As Pitt put it: “If we’re going to do a celebrity shoot, let’s make something, work with an artist, see what we come up with. It’s always more interesting.” 

People are, in part, so obsessed with this shoot because we so rarely see celebrities ― especially middle-age male heartthrobs ― presented in this light: awkward, struggling, sad, a little goofy, trying something new and at times failing. In one photo Pitt is literally tearing up!

The images aren’t shellacked with Hollywood plastic, nor do they pulse with heartthrob machismo. They are of a different breed than the fashion magazine spreads that depict female celebrities as goddesses ― eternally unattainable and equally uncomplicated.

Rather, they couple McGinley’s artistic style with Pitt’s life experience, telling a specific story whose ending remains unresolved. Instead of following the typical formula for celebrity spreads, in which the male gaze glorifies women for being young and hot, McGinley offers an awkward and multifaceted representation of a flawed and fragile male actor, imploring viewers to feel his story through his body as well as through his words. 

We often hear that feminism benefits men as well as women. McGinley’s spread, despite being a great viral internet distraction for the afternoon, visualizes this claim. When photography is freed from the grip of the male gaze, powerful men are free to express their creativity and their emotions and their insecurity and fear. They are free to frolic in onesies in damp caves and look moodily into the camera. They are free to breakdance amongst rolling waves of white sand ― and to be honest, that looks really fun. 

See all of the (truly amazing) photos over at GQ. 

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‘From The Ashes’ Is A Gripping New Documentary On How The Coal Industry Affects Us All

A couple of months ago, I walked into the lobby of a New York City movie theater and was approached by a tall, lanky man in his late 20s wearing a backwards baseball hat. He asked if I cared about the environment, climate change and clean energy. He was trying to get Con Edison customers to switch to Green Mountain Energy by espousing the virtues of clean, renewable energy ― oh, and he’d give me a $10 AMC gift card.

I ended up switching because I didn’t realize I had a choice of energy service company, nor that I had a say in how that energy was sourced. (As this site points out, it’s impossible to know where exactly energy comes from, but signing up for a greener company sets aside more money for renewable resources.)

It’s something I kept thinking about while watching “From the Ashes,” which explores the issues surrounding the coal industry and how it affects Americans. Fittingly, the idea of where our power comes from is one of the first things the film’s director Michael Bonfiglio mentioned to me in an interview the day after the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival

“I think most of us, myself included, until I began working on this film, when we flip our light switch on, we don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s just coming from an electricity factory somewhere. We don’t know what’s actually generating our power,” he said. “We are all making a decision when we turn on our lights. It certainly affects people who are not directly involved in the industry.”

About 30 percent of electricity in the United states is generated by coal, but it’s “the most polluting form of energy on the planet. It’s the biggest contributor to climate change,” says Mary Anne Hitt of environmental group the Sierra Club in the film. 

In March, President Trump signed an executive order rolling back Obama-era energy policies designed to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Trump vowed to begin an “energy revolution” and said signing the order would “eliminate federal overreach” and “start a new era of production and job creation.”

But coal company executives have already admitted that Trump’s executive order won’t single-handedly save the industry and bring back jobs. “From the Ashes” shows that many of these jobs have already been replaced by mechanization and aren’t coming back. What’s more, the film explains that coal companies are the reason that states like West Virginia remained reliant on the industry for jobs, halting development of any alternative economic base.

“[Coal companies] can block legislation, they can block economic initiatives. Any kind of industry that can compete with them, they want to keep it out,” Appalachia historian Chuck Keeney explained in the film.

The documentary, which is an excellent primer for those who don’t know anything about coal, looks at its affects on our climate, public health and the economy. And Bonfiglio even admitted that he “knew next to nothing” when the film was first pitched to him. 

“You want to make a film about coal? I thought, Is there any more boring topic? You know: It’s a rock. Who cares?” he said. “And then I very quickly started to get educated on the issue and realized that it’s something that has so many different issues and affects people’s lives in ways that we’re not even aware of.”

One of the issues concerns coal ash ― the waste material produced from burning coal that contains arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals. 

“I mean there are these coal ash pits all over the place, and I think as [the Sierra Club’s] Bruce Niles says in the film, ‘They are ticking time bombs all over the country that are unlined pits full of poison.’” 

Bonfiglio added that even if someone was fully aware that their power comes from coal, they probably aren’t thinking about the next step: What do you do with the leftover ash?

“What’s been done for decades and decades is just dumping [the ash] into unlined pits that are usually right near waterways and near the aquifers,” he said. “So, at this moment, people are drinking water somewhere in the United States that is being poisoned because the industry has not been responsible in the way they clean up after themselves. It’s mind-boggling.” 

Viewers of “From the Ashes” will likely see it that way as well, if not outright infuriating. But Bonfiglio said he hopes people who watch the film will walk away with “some hope that it is possible to make a change and the understanding that the supporting the communities that have worked so hard and made so many sacrifices to keep the lights on in this country for generations.”

He continued, “That there are ways to support those communities in making a just transition to [a] cleaner, safer, healthier, more economically sustainable way of life.”

“From The Ashes” airs on National Geographic Channel on June 25 at 9 p.m. ET. 

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How 7 People Turned Their Passion Projects Into Successful Side Jobs

When Le’Donne Morris began his career in graphic design and web development, he felt like something was missing. So he began to brainstorm a side job that would provide a creative outlet and a chance to channel some of his personal interests into a concrete product.

The result, Limited Time Offer, is an enamel pin design business that draws its inspiration from his long time passions: pop culture and professional wrestling.

“Personally, I started this because my day job lacks creativity, it helps fill that void,” said Morris, who prefers to go by Don.

Of course, taking more than one job is nothing new and is often a means of survival. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2016, the number of multiple job-holders hit a eight-year record high with more than 5 percent of all employed adults taking on extra work, USA Today reported.

In this context, a passion project is a privileged pursuit rather than a matter of making ends meet ― a chance to flex muscles not used during a day job. For some, the goal is to transition from a day job to a full-time position in their chosen field. For others, having a creative outlet that is self-sustaining is payment enough.

And many young people seek the opportunity to express themselves while making a little extra income: A survey from Career Builder found that workers between the ages of 25 and 34 were twice as likely as those 45 to 52 to have a second job.

No matter what your goals are, it’s hard to know where to start and how to fit a new enterprise into an already full life. But if you’re considering turning your passion into a side hustle, you’d do well to heed the advice of Morris and six other creatives who have successfully made the jump: 

1. “My side job has led to more priceless, life-changing, unreal adventures than I could have ever imagined.”

Name: Crystal Sagan

Age: 35

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Full-time job: Owner of Cocktail Caravan, a mobile bar

Side hustle: Freelance writer/photographer at Powder Magazine

Why a side hustle? Having something outside of my real job as the owner of Cocktail Caravan, forces me to use different parts of my brain I wouldn’t otherwise engage on a daily basis. I’ve found that it’s changed things with my real job for the better because creative parts of my brain are primed and ready, and I’m able to approach things within my everyday office life with a more creative approach than I otherwise would.

Other than that, the actual process of telling stories has led to more priceless, life-changing, unreal adventures than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t always know that this is where I wanted to end up, but I knew what felt exciting and made me happy.

How does the money work out? There hasn’t always been a paycheck involved, but the deeper I get, the more rewarding, financially and experience-wise it becomes.

What’s been the hardest thing and the best thing? At the end of the day I’m constantly amazed at the people and experiences that I’ve crossed paths with because I took that first step. For me, the side hustle is about following something that brings me a deep level of satisfaction.

It’s hard work, and 95 percent of the time you’re already exhausted from your real job, life, and responsibilities, so you need to have some level of passion or it’s hard to find the energy to see things through.

What advice do you have for others? Taking that first step to committing to do something is scary and exciting and you never really know what you’ll encounter along the way that can have profoundly positive influences in your life.

2. “Don’t be afraid. Just start.”

Name: Noah Jacobs

Age: 28

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Full-time job: Preschool teacher

Side hustle: Writer

Describe what you do and why: I’m a full-time preschool teacher in Minneapolis and use what limited time I have during breaks of peace and quiet at work to check my phone and say connected with cultural happenings and what I can write about as a freelance writer. Still, I contribute weekly to Splitsider’s “This Week In Comedy Podcasts” feature and have begun writing longer pieces for them when I can, which translates to once a month or so. I stumbled into teaching in mid-2012, and started contributing to The A.V. Club’s podcast roundup Podmass with a one-sentence review of Julie Klausner’s podcast that posted on Aug. 19, 2013. Splitsider welcomed me late last year after I left Podmass due to some freelance cutbacks.

How does the money work out? Being a preschool teacher is my main source of income. Writing provides income but whatever I make, I use to treat myself.

What’s been the hardest thing and the best thing?: The thing about working with young children is that sometimes they respond to your love with anger and sadness. They can’t express appreciation like a grown-up can.

On the other hand, my words are everywhere on Andrea Silenzi’s press page. “Marty & Sarah Love Wrestling” did, like, a twenty minute bit about how excited they were when I named Sarah Shockey and Ryback “Cutest Couple” in 2016. As Frank Burns said on M*A*S*H, it’s nice to be nice to the nice.

What advice do you have for others? Don’t be afraid, just start your side-hustle, or ask someone if you can do it, if that’s something you need to do to begin. I had nothing to point to online when I started as a freelance writer and sent my pitches to an editor. I’m just fortunate and humbled that they responded and took a chance on me. It’s easy to be excited about what I’m doing when I’m excited about what I’m writing. I do what I know I can handle.

3. “I try to remind myself to be excited that I’m getting to do what I love.”

Name: Brian Davis

Full time job: Coffee roaster/barista

Side hustle: Filmmaker and owner of Motion Distillery

Age: 28

Location: Oceanside, California

Describe what you do and why: I split my time between working as a coffee roaster/barista for a small coffee company called Revolution Roasters and being a filmmaker. A few years back I started a brand/portfolio of my film work under the name Motion Distillery. I help brands, artists, and companies tell their stories through short films—essentially short commercials harnessing the essence of who they are.

I’ve been making films since I was kid, really, but professionally I’ve been at it for about five years. At the same time, I’ve worked in the speciality coffee industry in one way or another and it’s always been a steady side gig for me. It allows me to keep my dream alive of getting to pursue filmmaking. I really do love roasting and serving coffee, but I see filmmaking as my longterm career path.

How does the money work out? It’s paid off in experience. I used to get really down on myself for having to work in coffee to supplement my filmmaking, but now I see it as an opportunity to support myself and the passion I have for my craft.

What’s been the hardest thing and the best thing? It’s tricky to balance it all. I feel very fortunate to get to do something on the side, like coffee, that I quite enjoy, so that’s a positive. Lately I’ve been burning at both ends. I work three to four days at the cafe making coffee then the other days I’m out shooting, editing, or working on film projects. It takes a lot of energy to balance both schedules and make it all happen and it can be super overwhelming and even stressful. I just try to remind myself to be excited that I’m getting to do what I love—in both areas.

What advice do you have for others? Follow your passion project even if it begins with baby steps. It takes a lot of patience and time but it’s worth it to be able to pursue your passion, and it doesn’t hurt to have the extra income on the side. Staying passionate is hard at times, but it’s something I truly love, and it’s my art so I find ways to create and do it. Community is really important and it helps to surround yourself with other creative people who will spur you on to keep creating.

4. “The hardest thing is feeling overwhelmed.”

Name: Don Morris

Age: 29

Location: Los Angeles, California

Full time job: Graphic designer and web developer

Side hustle: Co-founder of Limited Time Offer

Describe what you do and why: For a little more than a year, my brother and I have run an online storefront selling enamel pins focused on pro wrestling. I’ve been into enamel pins for a while, even before it was a trend. Originally we started by focusing on pop culture designs, but pro wrestling was my brother’s idea. There’s a lack of decent merchandise available and we just want to make stuff for people like us.

How does the money work out? I work on my side project on top of my day job. My side hustle isn’t my main source of income but it’s financially self-sustainable.

What’s been the hardest thing and the best thing? The hardest thing is just feeling overwhelmed. I was stressing about running our social media accounts earlier this week, but I try to avoid this by staying organized. For instance, I have a notebook to help schedule stuff out and jot down notes or sketches. 

The most rewarding thing is seeing customers’ photos on social media. It’s awesome knowing people like our stuff enough to wear it or post a picture on Instagram.

What advice do you have for others? You definitely have to love whatever you’re doing to pursue a passion project. If it isn’t fun in some way it probably isn’t worth doing. I almost gave up after releasing our first designs. They were irrelevant and relied too heavily on nostalgia. It’s okay to fail though, without failing we wouldn’t have found our niche. It also helped that we were able to adapt our original ideas to fit a new theme.

5. “I’m working to one day make the transition so that my side hustle can be a full-time job.”

Name: Brett Shumaker

Age: 30

Location: Pittsburgh, Pa

Full time job: Barista

Side hustle: Promoter/founder of Don’t Let the Scene Go Down On Me! Collective

Describe what you do and why: I kind of fell into being a promoter and show booking. I was in a band of my own ten years ago and was booking our own shows. When the band broke up, I still wanted to be involved in that process.

How does the money work out? My day job is the way I pay my bills but I’m working to one day make the transition so that my side hustle can be a full-time job.

What’s been the hardest thing and the best thing? There’s always that one show every now and then that does way worse than I imagined and I lose a lot of money and I wonder for a second why I still do this, but then I remember all the good I’ve done with this and I just keep moving right along and try harder. The most rewarding part is watching people enjoy the shows I book and the bands telling me how happy they were with the show – that really keeps me going.

What advice do you have for others? It can be hard to find the balance between your day job and your side hustle, especially when your day job is paying the bills. Making other people happy is what keeps me going. As I try to make the transition to just doing my passion project, I’m taking on more of a workload, so feeling overwhelmed is something I am learning to deal with. If it’s something you love, don’t give it up.

6. “Music is something that feels like a calling” 

Name: Claire Morales

Age: 27

Location: Denton, Texas

Full time job: Graphic designer

Side hustle: Musician

Describe what you do and why: I’m a graphic designer for my main job. My passion project is music. I play guitar and sing in a band that’s billed under my name. I kind of think of myself as double majoring in life, half design, half music. I was 13 when I started playing shows at coffee shops and have been writing songs and making records and performing since then.

How does the money work out? Graphic design is my main source of income. I make money from album and music merchandise sales and live shows, but pretty much all of it gets funneled back into producing new records.

What’s been the hardest thing and the best thing? There was a time when I was working and commuting about 60 hours a week all together for my day job. Finding time to book shows and write songs and have band practice was extremely difficult. I kind of woke up to just how stressed I was and how bad my quality of life was becoming. I went freelance so that I could basically stay sane and be more in control of my own time.

I love graphic design, but it never feels very personal to me. It’s always for someone else. Music is something that feels like a calling, something that’s in me that I should be doing, and it’s a great feeling.

What advice do you have for others? Find meaning and satisfaction in the process. Realize that just like a regular job, you have to put in a lot of time and effort in to get the most out of it. Try to find ways to enjoy that work and find fulfillment just in the act of doing it and doing it well. I find that keeping a mix of small, more realizable goals and also bigger more broad ones helps me to keep dreaming and also get stuff done every day. Don’t compare your progress to others. I try to be excited that there are so many great musicians around me. I think it’s better to inspire one another and think of others in your field as peers rather than competitors.

7. “When you’re ready to give up, that’s the time to dig in further into your passion”

Name: Heather Quinn Gage

Age: 26

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Full time job: Development Manager (fundraising) for a nonprofit theater company

Side hustle: Consulting for nonprofit organizations

Describe what you do and why: My first day job definitely matched what I wanted in a job, but as I got further out into the workforce I realized that there will never be a perfect job that marries what I want to do with the right culture and meets my personal goals; I needed to create it.

The way I started my consulting was to do three things every day that led me to clients or work. That’s how I stayed motivated and felt like I was accomplishing something each day.

How does the money work out? My side hustle is funded by my full-time job. I pursue it more to pursue a location-independent lifestyle and have my time be more valued than a traditional job.

What’s been the hardest thing and the best thing? There are times when I do feel overwhelmed, especially when I am having more issues in my personal life that I feel I need to focus on. In these moments, my best advice is to focus on self-care. If you feel your business is important to your future, don’t drop it in these moments. That’s when you double down on investing in your business and taking care of your physical and mental health.

The best part is feeling like I’m using a broader set of my skills than just the ones I use in my day job. I can help people in ways that feel more authentic to me.

What advice do you have for others? When you’re ready to give up, that’s the time to dig in further into your passion, it’s not time to drop it. In the end, if it’s what fuels your fire and fulfills you, it will ultimately make you stronger in weak times. I suggest making your own checklist for what you know makes you feel the best mentally and physically and what the necessities are for doing your best work. During a hard time you can look at it and see if you’ve met your own criteria for showing up your best.

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James Comey Causes Searches For ‘Nauseous’ To Spike On Merriam-Webster

FBI Director James Comey revealed on Wednesday that the FBI’s actions affecting the outcome of the 2016 election made him “mildly nauseous,” subsequently causing lookups for the word “nauseous” to spike.

Merriam-Webster reports that the word spiked 4,793 percent after Comey used the word during his testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The often-cheeky dictionary defines the word as “affected with nausea or disgust” and indicates it can be used as a synonym for “nauseated.” If the idea of using “nauseous” to mean “become affected with nausea” makes you nauseated, check out the dictionary’s thoughts on the topic:

The word can be, and in fact usually is, used to mean “affected with nausea”—that is, as a synonym for nauseated. Current evidence shows these facts: nauseous is most frequently used to mean physically affected with nausea, often after a linking verb such as feel or become; figurative use is quite a bit less frequent.

As for Comey’s use of the word, it’s an intriguing choice. “Nauseous,” as seen in an example on Merriam-Webster, is usually used to describe the feeling a child gets after they’ve “feasted overmuch on taffy and been forced to endure a long car ride.”

So, Comey’s use of the word to depict how he felt after finding that his reopening of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails right before the election had a massive impact on the outcome of the election feels … insufficient.

Aside from his “nausea,” Comey also indicated that he made the announcement of the investigation 11 days before the election because, though he knew  it “would be really bad,” concealing the information would be “catastrophic.” 

Ugh. Twitter seems to be more than “mildly nauseous” at this news:  

We’re slightly fearful of what would make Comey very nauseous. 

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Michelle Obama Says She And Barack Will Keep Fighting For What They Believe In

Michelle Obama isn’t letting anything stop her from fulfilling her commitment to girls’ education.

Just days after the Trump administration denied reports about ending the former first lady’s 2015 global education initiative “Let Girls Learn,” despite the fact that future funding is in question, Michelle is emphasizing her and former President Barack Obama’s dedication to the issue with their planned Obama Presidential Center.

“Excited by the potential of the Obama Pres. Center,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “Barack [and] I will continue to champion the issues close to our hearts, including girls ed[ucation].”

The Obamas traveled to Chicago on Wednesday to preview a design for the forthcoming center in Jackson Park on the south side of the city, the Chicago Tribune reports. Though this is not the former president’s first public appearance since leaving office, it will be Michelle’s first.

At midday, Barack is set to moderate a roundtable discussion on their vision for the Obama Presidential Center. According to the Barack Obama Foundation, the center will include a museum, a library (hosted by University of Chicago), offices and an event space. The center will reportedly cost at least $500 million, covered by fundraising, and is expected to open in 2021. 

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Baton Rouge Residents Demand DOJ ‘Wake Up’ To What Justice Should Look Like

BATON ROUGE, La. ― By the time the sun had set in Baton Rogue on Tuesday, the Department of Justice still hadn’t delivered its official ruling against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling last July.

However, news announcing that both of the officers had been acquitted began to rapidly spread after multiple media outlets ― including The Washington Post, The Associated Press and The New York Times ― were told the outcome from independent sources. The official decision is expected to be announced at a press conference in Florida on Wednesday. 

Baton Rouge residents, many of whom had swarmed the streets for days last summer in protest of Sterling’s death, had been bracing for the DOJ’s decision for months, hoping the officers would be held accountable for their actions. However, their expectations were measured considering the little, if any, faith many have in the ability of President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to see why an indictment would be warranted in this case. 

“When Trump appointed Sessions as the Justice Department head, we knew with his history that nothing was going to change and I think it’s a shame,” NAACP Baton Rouge Vice President Byron Sharper told HuffPost on Tuesday. “This country is at a point where we’re either going to make it or break it. Not just Baton Rouge, but the entire country. And we got a president ― wild and crazy ass Trump – who is not a good fit for anybody. I think a lot of people that voted for him are going to reap what they have sown.”

A vigil was held on Tuesday outside the Triple S store where Sterling was shot. Dozens of people gathered for a peaceful demonstration to grieve as well as express their anger over what they say is another gross act of injustice against black lives. Sterling’s aunt Veda Washington spoke before the crowd, in disbelief of how she found out about the news.

“Now we haven’t heard anything. The district attorney has not called us and told us anything. The lawyer called and said they have not made a decision. Ain’t that something?” she said. “But The Washington Post calls up here. Where’s my mayor, because she promised me she would let us know? Where’s the governor, because they promised my family that they would let us know?”

In fact, it was Arthur Reed, a well-admired local activist known as “Silky Slim,” who shared the news with Sterling’s aunt. She immediately “broke down crying,” he told HuffPost. “It was rough on her.”

“Justice Department? They don’t know what justice means. This is a slap in the face.
Sharon Bethley

Reed is also the founder of the group Stop the Killing, a community anti-violence nonprofit organization. As a former gang leader, Reed transformed his life and became a motivational speaker who has worked to fight back against violence, especially police killings of black people, and demands that Sessions “wake up” to the reality of racism within policing.

“I don’t think people are going to continue to allow themselves to continue to be victims of these individuals who have infiltrated law enforcement and are killing African Americans,” he told HuffPost. “You have individuals who grew up in the Ku Klux Klan, whose parents were in the Ku Klux Klan and now they’re Ku Klux Klan and if they infiltrate law enforcement, they become Ku Klux Klan with a license to kill.”

“So we have to be very real about what’s going on and look at these individuals who have infiltrated law enforcement and are carrying out these assassinations right before our eyes,” he continued. “This is a problem. Jeff Sessions has to wake up.”

Despite not receiving official word from the DOJ and having only reports from national outlets, Baton Rouge residents expressed familiar feelings of pain and anguish.

“Our officials should be ashamed of themselves. This is outrageous. They blew it,” Sharon Bethley, a 59-year-old resident, told HuffPost. “Justice Department? They don’t know what justice means. This is a slap in the face. It is. I think it’s vile because you don’t have to execute someone when they’re flat on their back. It’s senseless. It’s a senseless death.”

“I am tired of seeing black men killed at the hands of police and there never be any justice,” said Meghan Matt, another local resident. “I would hope Jeff Sessions would take his job seriously and protect the civil rights of all citizens. He’s been very vocal about protecting police, but he’s said a lot of things that are contradictory to our constitutional rights. His job is to protect all citizens and even if it’s uncomfortable for him, he needs to step up and do it the right way.”

Others said the outcome from the DOJ was to be expected, and that it is a cry for the desperate need for criminal justice reform in America.

“I’m not surprised,” Donney Rose, a local activist and teacher, told HuffPost. “Donald Trump ran on a platform of being a law and order candidate. Donald Trump believes in stop and frisk. Jeff Sessions believes in the police from an absolute perspective. It’s saddening and disheartening.”

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How Packaging Whitney Houston For White Audiences Contributed To Her Downfall

Five years after Whitney Houston’s untimely death, two new documentaries have evaluated her role as a black pop star packaged for white audiences. Coupled, they present conflicting perspectives on an artist whose personal trials eclipsed her professional triumphs.

One, “Whitney: Can I Be Me,” centers on Houston herself, who experienced a meteoric rise to fame at the untaught age of 22. The other, “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” intersperses the singer’s biography throughout its hagiographic account of the titular record executive’s career. Both premiered at the recently wrapped Tribeca Film Festival, where it was jarring to see the documentaries’ clashing viewpoints within days of each other. 

Whereas “Whitney: Can I Be Me” is critical of the way industry moguls engineered Houston’s image, “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives” presents a fawning portrait of its subject as the foreman of Houston’s success. 

“Can I Be Me” touts Houston as the first black woman to debut atop the pop charts. Read critically, that’s a euphemism for the effort by Davis and his Arista Records team to make her palatable for white America. As the documentary tells it, Arista didn’t want a female James Brown. The label aimed to bury the New Jersey native’s “hood” upbringing and make her “classy,” according to members of the singer’s entourage. She was a pop princess.

Davis gave her songs like “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and “How Will I Know” ― polite bangers that targeted mainstream Top 40 over the less lucrative R&B market. Even though Houston’s hits saw significant airtime on R&B radio, her manicured image angered a portion of the black community, as evidenced by the 1989 Soul Train Awards crowd booing Houston during the presentation of Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Single.

“You’re not black enough for them,” the seven-time Grammy winner later said in an interview, recounting her detractors’ complaints. “You’re not R&B enough. You’re very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.” 

Across her first two albums, Arista apparently vetoed anything too “black-sounding.” The Soul Train Awards episode became a turning point for Houston, who decided she wanted her next record to be edgier. “That moment was devastating,” saxophonist and collaborator Kirk Whalum says in the film. “I don’t think she ever recovered. When the boxes are ticked on why she perished, that was a big one.”

In “Soundtrack of Our Lives,” Davis, who signed Houston when she was 19, purports to have encouraged the transition she sought. Davis claims an integral role in her rebranding, recognizing that hip-hop was infiltrating music in the early ‘90s. For his part, Davis was hip to the trend, acquiring Babyface and L.A. Reid’s LaFace Records (which housed TLC, Usher and Goodie Mob) in 1989 and Puff Daddy’s Bad Boys Records (Notorious B.I.G., Mase, Faith Evans) in 1993.

But “Can I Be Me” doesn’t make it sound so seamless: Whalum says Houston’s tactic was to avoid making “another Clive Davis record” chasing white acceptance. It was almost an act of rebellion.

When HuffPost sat down with “Can I Be Me” co-director Nick Broomfield on the morning of the movie’s Tribeca premiere, he maintained that Houston’s 1990 album, “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” wasn’t the direction Davis wanted. (Davis was interviewed for “Can I Be Me” but wouldn’t sign the accompanying release form. He declined our interview request.)

At the time, because record labels were segregated, black artists “crossing over” to the pop charts required strategy. Arista brought in Doug Daniels, whose title was “VP of black music,” to help Houston appeal to non-white audiences. The singer’s associates stress she was clueless as to how much the label manipulated her image in the early days of her career.

The notion of crossover artists was like crossing the color barrier,” Broomfield said. “It was an enormous thing. She was very carefully manufactured to make this transition.”

The title track on “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” while still tame, had a certain bite to it, and the music video featured a leather-jacket-clad Houston riding a motorcycle. Ostensibly proving Davis’ point that so-called urban records didn’t sell as well, “Tonight” failed to match the success of Houston’s first two albums. Despite producing two major pop hits (”I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “All the Man That I Need”), it peaked at No. 3, unable to knock Vanilla Ice’s debut from the top spot. Houston didn’t release another studio album for eight years, instead focusing on a movie career.

It’s possible there’s truth to Davis’ summation in “Soundtrack of Our Lives” and the Houston camp’s perspectives in “Can I Be Me.” Record labels are gigantic entities, and they often wield heavy hands over artists’ images. And anyway, Davis has admitted he didn’t do enough to court black audiences: “Frankly, I was color-blind, and perhaps a little naïve in that I didn’t try to find pure R&B songs that only black-oriented stations could claim for their own,” he wrote in his 2013 autobiography, which serves as the documentary’s source material. Houston was Davis’ signature artist, and the two remained fiercely loyal. The night of Houston’s drug-related drowning, she was scheduled to attend Davis’ annual pre-Grammy bash

We’ll never know precisely how much Arista’s supervision affected Houston. Regardless, “Can I Be Me” and “Soundtrack of Our Lives” encapsulate the complicated roles pop stars play in our lives ― or, more specifically, the roles record conglomerates play in how we consume pop stars’ lives. Houston was signed at an impressionable age, only to have her career dictated by older, white, male millionaires. While Houston’s upbringing has roots in drugs and domestic violence, it’s now clear that the manipulation of her racial identity contributed to her waning self-esteem. 

“From just talking to some of those executives at Arista who were involved in that creation, you realize that she was very manufactured, and she paid a massive price for it,” Broomfield said. “They were slightly guilty. I think she was so young. She looked like a young doe. She had no idea what she was in for.”

Whitney: Can I Be Me” airs on Showtime in August. Apple Music acquired the rights to “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” but no release date has been set.

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Teen Designs Breast Cancer Detection Bra After Almost Losing Mom To The Disease

After nearly losing his mother to breast cancer, a Mexican teen decided to invent something to help women detect the disease during its early stages. 

“When I was 13 years old, my mother was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer,” Julián Ríos Cantú said in a company video for his new invention. “The tumor went from having the dimensions of a grain of rice to that of a golf ball in less than six months. The diagnosis came too late and my mother lost both of her breasts and, almost, her life.” 

This experienced pushed the now 18-year-old entrepreneur to design Eva, an auto-exploration bra that helps women detect breast cancer early on. Ríos Cantú is currently the CEO and co-founder of Higia Technologies, a company he established with three close friends when he was 17.

On Saturday, the breast cancer detection bra won the top prize at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards finals competition, which hosted 56 student entrepreneurs from 56 countries. 

Hoy descubrí de donde provienen todas esas fotos de perfil en Facebook…

A post shared by Julián Ríos Cantú (@julianrioscantu) on

Eva uses tactile sensors to map the surface of the breast and monitor texture, color and temperature. The invention was designed particularly for women who have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, and users can use a mobile or desktop app to review their condition. 

“What happens is we take all that data and store it,” Ríos Cantú said in an interview with El Universal. “When there is a tumor in the breast there is more blood, more heat, so there are changes in temperature and in texture. We will tell you, ‘in this quadrant there are drastic changes in temperature’ and our software specializes in caring for that area. If we see a persistent change, we will recommend that you go to the doctor.”

“Why a bra? Because it allows us to keep the breasts in the same position and it doesn’t have to be used more than one hour every week,” he added.

The entrepreneur’s invention is only a prototype, and he estimates it’ll be two years before it will be certified for use, according to the Mexican newspaper.

The American Cancer Society estimates 41,070 women will die of breast cancer in the United States this year.

El interior de EVA – The Autoexploration Bra.

A post shared by Julián Ríos Cantú (@julianrioscantu) on

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Martha Cooper Solo Exhibition Reveals Many Unseen ‘Action Shots’ in New York

An intrepid photographer who has launched a million dreams (and perhaps a few thousand careers) in graffiti and Street Art with her photography that captured crucial and seminal aspects of our culture that others overlooked.

That is just one way of seeing this brand new collection of images by Martha Cooper that is spread across one wall featuring artists at work, sometimes intimately. Here is where you see 102 individual shots of artists at work, a stunning testament to the range of art-making techniques that are practiced in the public realm, as well as a testament to the passion and curiosity of the woman behind the lens.

For Ms. Cooper’s first solo photography show in New York, Steven Kasher Gallery is featuring 30 new editions of her legendary street art photographs, the ones that have burned themselves into the collective memory of New York and of our streets in the 1970s and 1980s. While her photographs in the 1984 seminal “Subway Art” and her early Hip Hop street shots may be what she is most known for by artists and collectors and fans in cities around the world to which she travels, the new exhibit also contains more than a foreshadowing into the vast collection of important images she has not shown to us.

Clearly she could fill her own museum with the ephemera she has collected as well; the books, clothing articles, black books, stickers, personal drawings that capture her eye and invoke a conversation that happened in the street, under ground, in the train yards. Some of the ephemera is here in a vitrine, much too small to contain everything – for additional context and perhaps to burnish the “living legend” Street Cred that one gains by sticking in the trenches with artists over many decades.

This week during the installation of the show Ms. Cooper also shared with us the valuable history that illustrates the significance of some of the pieces.

Of a 1982 vest painted by graffiti writer Caine1, she explains that shortly after he made the vest for her he was shot – and the photo of the train with the skyline is a memorial to him. A photo spread of a train painted by graffiti writer Spin from that same year is accompanied by the original sketch he did for it in carefully drawn bold letters aimed at the New York Mayor who made war against graffiti, “Dump Koch”. The Keith Haring drawing and dedication in her note book we recognize because she brought it with her to the Haring exhibit dinner at the Brooklyn Museum a few years ago, occasionally bringing it out to show to other guests. Next to it a photo of Martha as a small child, camera in hand, the daughter of a photographer and camera store owner in Baltimore. These are objects and memories that have great meaning to her, and to many others who will see this collection.

This is not a retrospective but it is the first time a New York gallery has dedicated a serious solo show to a photographer whose work has received numerous tributes throughout the world, including the dedication of a new library in her name in the Urban Nation museum in Berlin opening this September. In many ways it is remarkable that aside from the Museum of The City of New York no major museum in New York has recognized the invaluable contributions her professional life’s work has made to the city, let alone to the history of graffiti, hip hop, Street Art, photography, popular culture.

As appreciable as the well-mounted collection here is, it is a small, potent sampling of Cooper’s careers as a photographer, documentarian, ethnographer, preservationist, and reporter worldwide over a half century of travel and investigation. Without these images, crucial information about the creators, techniques and culture of graffiti and Street Art and the culture of art in the streets would be unknown. Yet she’s eager to share more of her many excursions of study into other cultures and subcultures, like traditional tattooing in Japan, and a project comparing two neighborhoods in Baltimore and Southwest Township, South Africa, and a uniquely artful recycling program in Brazil. Even the simple practices of city kids at play has often captured her attention and she has documented it for decades.

The last few years have been a whirlwind of global travel for Ms. Cooper, including trips to nearly every continent for Street Art festivals, graffiti jams, museum and gallery exhibitions, and special events in her honor – she even gave a TED talk in Vienna recently. Taking a moment to cool her heels back in NYC, this show gives us a glimpse into the outstanding and valuable historical archives that Ms. Cooper is turning her attention to these days.

“This show is important to me at this time because I’m at a point in my life where I want to shoot less and organize my archives more,” she tells us. “I’ve been a professional photographer since 1968, almost 50 years. Exhibits help me think about how my work fits together. I want people to see me as a photographer first, not only a documenter of graffiti and hip hop.”

“Having a show at a gallery that specializes in photography helps accomplish this goal. Although I was never interested in being a fine art photographer, I’m happy and somewhat surprised to see that my photographs have a collectible value.” Modest about her talents as usual, even Martha appears to not realize the value of her contribution to so many and so much of the culture.

BSA: Is this your first solo exhibition in NYC?
Martha Cooper: Not really. I had a solo Street Play exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York in 1980, I had a lot of exhibits that Akim Walta organized when Hip Hop Files came out in 2004. I also had the NYCasitas show in East Harlem last year, and there have been others. However it’s my first solo exhibition in NYC at a photography gallery.

BSA: Is this sort of a retrospective?
MC: Again–not really. Although there are photos from 1970 (tattoo) to 2016, there are major projects that this exhibit doesn’t include–for example all the documentation I did for City Lore, or in Baltimore. My archive contains many, many more topics and projects than are included in this exhibit so I don’t want to call it a retrospective. This show is heavy on graffiti and street art with a couple of photos each from Tokyo Tattoo and New York State of Mind.

Martha Cooper
Exhibition: April 20th – June 3rd, 2017
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 20th, 6-8PM

Steven Kasher Gallery
515 West 26th Street, NYC


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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Already Locked In For A Second Season

Just one week after its three-episode premiere, Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has already been renewed for a second season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The outlet notes that the show is Hulu’s most-streamed premiere to date; and it’s been a critical success, too, racking up a 92 percent rating on Metacritic.

In an interview with HuffPost last week, showrunner Bruce Miller said that the story’s themes, though timeless, were sure to resonate with contemporary viewers. He said the show will lead fans to “appreciate the freedoms that we have, and see little ways that they’re chipped away and what that can lead to.”

In addition to its at least two-season run, the show has Elisabeth Moss signed on for a five-to-seven-year contract, a commitment she made with the condition of working as a producer, with a say in casting decisions.

So, how will a multi-season adaptation of a single novel play out? On a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival, Miller noted that while one of the book’s merits is its close focus on Offred’s personal story, that also means there’s room to explore the world beyond her perspective.

“I wanted to know what happens next,” he said of the novel’s abrupt ending. “The end of the book is quite a mystery, so I get to make it up.”

It bodes well for future seasons that Atwood has been involved with Hulu’s take on her story, even appearing as a shadow-shrouded disciplinarian in one scene.

And, there have been possible hints at a sequel to the book, although this might be no more than wishful thinking on the part of her many avid fans.

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